Why the World Service must be saved

A brief note to alert readers to this week's Radio column by Antonia Quirke, who warns of imminent cuts to the BBC's World Service:

Already, the dedicated film programme and various religious programmes on the station are gone, the Proms are pencilled to go, and Wimbledon coverage, too (neither confirmed, but mooted at a recent meeting). Be warned, something terrible is happening: the World Service is being pared back to a rolling news channel.

In particular, her final paragraph reminds us just what is at stake:

On the few occasions I have presented programmes for the WS myself, and happened to spend time in the building, the station's gob­smacking reach was never once in my hearing pushed to PRs - it was never stressed, for example, that the station attracts a weekly audience of 241 million people across the world. Two hundred and forty-one million. Or that it has more than 2,000 partner radio stations globally. That more people are listening to it in the United States, say, or Tanzania, than ever before.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Italian PM Matteo Renzi resigns after referendum No vote

Europe's right-wing populists cheered the result. 

Italy's centrist Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was forced to resign late on Sunday after he lost a referendum on constitutional change.

With most ballots counted, 60 per cent of Italians voted No to change, according to the BBC. The turn out was nearly 70 per cent. 

Voters were asked whether they backed a reform to Italy's complex political system, but right-wing populists have interpreted the referendum as a wider poll on the direction of the country.

Before the result, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage tweeted: "Hope the exit polls in Italy are right. This vote looks to me to be more about the Euro than constitutional change."

The leader of France's far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen, tweeted "bravo" to her Eurosceptic "friend" Matteo Salvini, a politician who campaigned for the No vote. She described the referendum result as a "thirst for liberty". 

In his resignation speech, Renzi told reporters he took responsibility for the outcome and added "good luck to us all". 

Since gaining office in 2014, Renzi has been a reformist politician. He introduced same-sex civil unions, made employment laws more flexible and abolished small taxes, and was known by some as "Europe's last Blairite".

However, his proposed constitutional reforms divided opinion even among liberals, because of the way they removed certain checks and balances and handed increased power to the government.

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.